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Good afternoon. First, let me thank you for addressing the important issue of men and gender equality.
We need to engage men and boys in order to raise awareness about empowering women, fighting violence and education for both girls and boys. We need more men to take their share of the responsibility the family. In too many societies, women are overburdened by care work which is hindering them from economic independence. And last but not least, gender equality benefits both women and men because it actually gives more freedom and choices.
A modern competitive economy needs the best heads and hands, regardless of gender. This is sound economics and to the common good for us as individuals and as society. Hence, gender equality is both a goal on its own merits and an integrated part of development and prosperity.
What can we do to engage men in caregiving?
Firstly I believe that policies and schemes, which allow both men and women to combine family-life and working life, are important.
Secondly I think that men have a crucial role to play as decision makers, and community and opinion leaders – and as husbands and fathers.
They can play a role and encourage children to make use of their talents, regardless of gender stereotypes and expectations.
In education and the work place we as politicians must provide men with incentives to become health workers and caregivers, and women to become engineers and entrepreneurs.
Last year the Norwegian Government presented two White Papers to Parliament: The first about "Equal Opportunities for Women and Men" and the second about "A Future Perspective on Family Policies." The male perspective is emphasized in both white papers
The whitepapers confirmed that Norway still needs to pay special attention to employment and labour market participation. Gender segregation in the labour market is one of our major challenges.
Men represent an untapped resource in the Norwegian health- and care-service. Today, men only account for 10 percent of the workforce employed in this sector in Norway.
The "Norwegian Men-in-Health Recruitment Program" seeks to recruit (unemployed) men in the age between 26-55 years old to the health and care sector. The programme entails an eight weeks guided training as "Health-Recruit" in a regional health institution or health care service.
A retirement home reports that their male health recruits have had a very positive impact on the elderly, while the men themselves had found a new role for themselves. In other words – a win-win-situation.
This is a major reason why I am a strong spokesperson for diversity in the workplace. So far, more than 1000 men have completed an internship. This year around 400 motivated men are expected to join the program. The "Norwegian Men-in-Health Recruitment Programme" forms part of the Government`s Competence 2020 strategy for recruitment and innovation in regional health- and care-services.
Norway’s investments in generous parental leave schemes allow fathers to share the childcare at home, and we know that bonding between father and child from an early stage is good for the child.
Fathers enjoy a 10 weeks paternity quota (not transferable to the mother) and almost 90 percent of fathers entitled to parental leave make use of it. Moreover, paternity leave has also had a positive effect on female employment.
Parental benefits schemes combined with high quality child care facilities enable both women and men the possibility to choose both children and work, not either – or!
And you should know; one of the strongest defenders of paternity leave is the Norwegian Business Confederation (NHO). The parental leave benefit schemes are universal and thus predictable for the employer.
This year Norway chairs the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Gender Equality Programme for the Council lends priority to the labour market, violence, hate speech and men and gender equality. We think the Nordic countries have interesting experiences to offer, while recognizing that many countries outside our region are also moving ahead on this. I am looking forward to learn more about your work.
The promotion of gender equality is also a priority for Norway in our foreign policy and in development cooperation. Norway’s priority areas are
- girls’ education
- women’s political and economic participation
- combatting violence against women
- sexual and reproductive health and rights
- we are promoting women’s participation in peace processes and in preventing violent extremism.
Norway will continue to promote gender quality internationally and emphasising the importance of including men!
To conclude. It is high time to do more to challenge traditional norms, concepts and perceptions of men and masculinity. Just as we must continue to challenge norms and traditions that are hindering girls and women to reach their full potential and exercise their rights.
Only if we can provide more men with incentives and reasons to engage and to gain ownership in gender equality, willwe be able to unlock gender-biased choices in education and work.
It is important to integrate the role of men as caregivers in labour market and economic growth strategies. It simply makes economic sense.
Thank you for your attention!